Whether you’re 26 or 62, a restful night of sleep for many people is as unusual as catching a three-headed fish. Okay, maybe that’s not the best of examples, but let’s face it… there’s truth in that statement. But that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to eternal exhaustion (or diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease- all conditions for which chronic sleep deficits can raise the risk). We’ve rounded up the most common sleep sappers that affect us all in life, plus expert tips for coping.
Go on and catch up on those long lost zzz’s.
Sleep Thief: Restless Legs Syndrome
The often-overlooked medical issue, affecting approximately 5 to 10 percent of adults, can pop up in this decade, says Chris Winter, MD., author of The Sleep Solution. During the day you’re exhausted, and at night you feel a crawling, throbbing, aching, or itching sensation in your legs that compels you to kick and wiggle—sometimes right out of bed.
Snooze control: A weighted blanket.
“The heaviness seems to be comforting to some of my patients, particularly if they have issues with stress or anxiety,” says Rachel Salas MD., an associate professor of Neurology at Johns Hopkins University, A doctor can also prescribe medication that increases movement-controlling dopamine in the brain, which should help with physical symptoms.
Sleep Thief: Stress
Hmmm – who doesn’t have this in their life? Often times stress is triggered from outside forces; other times we engage and ignite our own stress all on our own. Stressful thoughts, tension and urges can often trigger our mind and body to scan for threats at night, which is not compatible with restful sleep.
Snooze control: Work out during the day; wind down at night
Exercise can help eliminate stress and thus, you nod off faster and sleep more soundly, research indicates. Though the exact reason is unclear, it may be because physical activity reduces stress and increases the amount of slow-wave (a.k.a. deep) sleep. Right before bed, try a ten-minute meditation, which may help insomnia. (Not a natural meditator? Download an app like Headspace or Calm.) Or just take a ‘time-out’ before you hit the sac- a nice cup of tea, a warm bath, or even soaking your feet can give you a moment away from troubling stress.
Sleep Thief: Perimenopause and menopause
“Hot flashes occur in 60 to 80 percent of women, and when they’re at night, they frequently wake women up,” says Sara Nowakowski, PhD, a behavioral
sleep medicine specialist and assistant professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. Even without nocturnal hot flashes, the decline in estrogen and progesterone—both of which contribute to better rest, fewer awakenings, and the ability to drift off—can work against you.
Snooze Control: Keep your cool.
Set your bedroom temp between 60 and 68 degrees, suggests Natalie Dautovich,PhD, assistant professor of psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University. “Moisture-wicking sheets and clothing can also help you cool down,” she says. Your gynecologist or primary care provider may prescribe hormone replacement therapy, which can offer relief from hot flashes.
Sleep Thief: Light
The amount of sleep we need doesn’t change with age, but as we get older, we tend to be more easily awakened, and one of the most common disturbances is luminescence—from the dawn’s early light or your alarm clock, AC, or TV.
Snooze control: Go dark at night.
Block the glow of machines. And if you’ve somehow made it this long without blackout curtains or shades, it may be time to invest. You can create your own sunrise with a light-therapy alarm clock that gradually brightens.
Sleep Thief: Your partner
Yes, you love them, but must they snore, squirm, sleepwalk, and secretly turn up the heat?
Snooze control: Collaborate and compromise.
Talk to the nasal noisemakers about consulting a doctor, which will benefit you both if sleep apnea is involved. Do some like it hot, or at least hotter than others? Consider separate blankets: one cozy flannel, one with sweat-wicking fabric. A small fan can also be directed at one side of the bed.
Sleep Thief: Mood disorders
Fluctuating hormones are likely part of why perimenopausal and early-postmenopausal women are at increased risk for depression and anxiety, both of which can affect sleep.
Snooze control: Seek treatment.
If you’re dealing with a particular level of stress due to a situation—like a death in the family or a job layoff—then often times, a sleep enhancer may be prescribed either over the counter or via a prescription by a doctor. But as we all know, prescription sleeping pills can and often create problems since some people can build up a tolerance. There are unpleasant side effects such as waking in the night and doing things—like eating or emailing—that you don’t remember the next day. And while pills may help you sleep, you might feel drowsy the next day. If you’re dealing with chronic insomnia, see a behavioral sleep psychologist, who can help shed light on your nocturnal angst.
*Portions of article reprinted from: https://www.oprahmag.com/life/health/a26308283/how-to-sleep-better/